How to Become a Volunteer Stream Monitor

  1. An adult and two children with a net sitting on a doc looking into the water
  2. Two people hiking in a creek holding a list of photos and descriptions of invasive species

    Send us your interest through our volunteer interest form

  3. Complete the online training An Introduction to Baseline Stream Monitoring

  4. Nancy with Monitors

We embrace volunteers of all ages and skill levels.

Frequently Asked Questions

No prior experience is necessary to become a volunteer. Volunteers come from many walks of life and are trained in all monitoring methods.

After the initial 5-hour training workshop, volunteers commit to visiting a stream site once a month from April or May to October. Volunteers find that it takes approximately 1 – 3 hours to monitor depending on the site.

Some volunteers identify their own sites to monitor. Other sites are selected by the Rock River Coalition with input from partner organizations.

Sites are available through the Rock River Watershed. There are usually a few nearby options to choose from. All streams are wadeable.

All equipment is provided for free by the Rock River Coalition, except for hip boots or waders. Some volunteers choose to use their own hip boots or waders, but these are not necessary.

Our volunteers monitor in different ways depending on their comfort levels. Some volunteers wade into the stream if they can do so safely; others monitor from shore or a bridge. We recommend monitoring in teams of two for safety, and we are always happy to work with you to find a site that suits your needs.

If it is early in the monitoring season, we can provide an individualized training. We keep a roster of all who are interested in volunteering – so it is never too late or too early to get in touch!

You can submit a volunteer interest form to get in touch. Next, we recommend completing the online introduction to stream monitoring to learn more about stream monitoring. Then, sign up for an in-person training workshop, and we will take things from there!

About Stream Monitoring

The Rock River Basin faces many challenges to maintaining water quality and quantity including extreme weather patterns and climate change, mounting pressure from urbanization, pollution from point and non-point sources, and threats posed by invasive species. Equally challenging have been efforts to involve the public in watershed management planning and project implementation. The Rock River Coalition believes that we all share responsibility and all have a role to play in meeting these challenges to clean water. Only by working collaboratively can we balance increasing societal demands on water with those of the environment.

For our streams, we envision a future in which every stream in the Rock River Basin has water quality data available for enhanced, science-based decision-making.

For our volunteers, our vision is to create a network of stream stewards, ensuring not only the collection of needed water quality data, but also enabling volunteers to become advocates for sustainable watershed management.

The Rock River Coalition has been training volunteers to “test the waters” since the start of its stream monitoring program in 2002. Currently, the Rock River Coalition has over 150 volunteers collecting water quality data at over 100 sites through the watershed.

We use easy-to-learn methods developed by the statewide Water Action Volunteers Program (WAV), a collaboration between Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension (UWEX).

Volunteers adopt a stream site and visit it monthly between April or May and October. Most volunteers take baseline measurements at their stream, which may include water temperature, water clarity, dissolved oxygen, stream flow, and biotic index or macroinvertebrate diversity.

Some volunteers also take water samples to be tested for nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen. Volunteers may also have the opportunity to participate in special projects, such as road salt monitoring or invasive species monitoring.

All stream monitoring data is uploaded into a statewide database that can be accessed and analyzed by the public. The database is maintained and used by the WDNR and is called the Surface Water Integrated Monitoring System.

You can view the data collected by our volunteers on our interactive map.

The Rock River Coalition offers training workshops each spring for new stream monitors. Workshops are offered throughout the watershed and typically occur on Saturdays in late April or May.

Volunteers receive hands-on instruction in the use of all stream monitoring equipment. We teach what makes a healthy stream, how we impact streams, and how stream monitoring data is used by Rock River Coalition’s partners. Volunteers also have an opportunity to meet others interested in streams and lakes in the Rock River Basin.

The Rock River Coalition is committed to supporting our volunteers throughout the monitoring season. Our stream monitoring coordinator will visit volunteers at their sites, answer volunteer questions with emails and telephone calls, and review all volunteer-collected data.

You can learn more about stream monitoring through this online course from Water Action Volunteers.

You can also see videos of our stream monitoring methods in WAV’s Video Library.

Have a question?

Our Current Projects


  • Data Sharing & Visualization

  • Education & Recreation

  • Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention

  • Stream Monitoring

  • Restoration

  • Strategic Plan